Friday, November 16, 2012

Everyday Heroes, Round Two

Not all heroes are found on the battlefield or in the news. Everyday heroes are the unsung, steadfast people with robust hearts who consistently do their best for others with no promise of reward or recognition.

These are three folks I know who fit this description. The third one, Naomi, is from a post I did over a year ago honoring everyday heroes.


Eric: Eric and I went to school together. The only child of a teacher and college professor, Eric was born with developmental and cognitive challenges, but that never diminished the glow of his personality. Always sweet and ever kind, his big heart extended even to those who sometimes made fun of him. 

Eric has been a bagger for decades now at a local grocery store. He's always cheery and asks about my entire family when I see him. Once, an elderly woman in a scooter was in front of me in the line where Eric was stationed. Eric saw her, trotted off in the direction of the floral department, and  returned with a yellow rose, which he presented to her with a flourish. She smiled as he escorted her out of the store with her bags. The checker saw the wondering smile on my face and explained, "Eric does that for every elderly person that comes through his line. We keep a running tab and he settles up at the end of each week, when he gets his paycheck."

When Eric returned to help bag my groceries, I said, "Eric, that is a wonderful thing you do for these people, giving them such a beautiful flower!"

Eric looked down at the groceries he was sorting for a moment, and then replied, "It not take much to make people happy. I like to do that, and they smile so big. They happy and I happy."

Eric knows the secret of gardening some never discover: the most fertile ground is the thirsty terrain of the heart.



Josh: Josh is a former student of mine and grew up without a dad. The pain Josh felt from that absence would surface time and time again in fights with other boys and defiance against all authority. It looked like another wasted life when he ended up doing jail time at 18 for heroin possession.

I was surprised to see him one early morning, walking into the school cafeteria, hand in hand with a little boy who sported Josh's smile. "Hello, Josh! How are you?" I asked.

He smiled broadly and introduced me to his son, Josh, Jr. He explained he had moved back to our community and in with his mom when he was released from jail. He was determined to be active in raising his son, he emphatically explained. "Growing up without my dad made me really angry. I finally realized when my son was born that I love him too much to hang onto that anger anymore. Letting go of it is like my present to him, and really, it's become my present to myself, too."

Josh settled himself onto the small cafeteria stool at the table beside his son while I went to drop off paperwork to the cafeteria manger. Another teacher approached Josh and talked with him while his son ate. While Josh Sr. chatted with the teacher, Josh Jr. stopped eating looked up at his dad. He leaned his head in for a moment against his dad's arm and nuzzled it before continuing his meal. His dad stopped talking, smiled down at his son and ruffled the boy's hair.

A cafeteria worker noticed me watching the scene and explained, "Josh works two jobs, one the night shift, which means he's just now getting off work, and the other a part time job each afternoon, which means he only gets about five hours of sleep each day, yet he's always here, every morning, walking his boy to school and sitting with him while he eats breakfast. He won't go home to sleep until his son is finished eating."

Even without a father's example, Josh is living out real fatherhood.



Naomi: Naomi and Lyle were literally childhood sweethearts. They met in the second grade and it was in the third grade he told her she was going to be his wife. She thought he was crazy, but sure enough, when they were 18, they married and he shipped off to fight in World War II.

Her prayers for him were fervent, and the Lord brought him home safely after two years of combat. Her hopes of building their family took a cruel turn when she suffered miscarriage after miscarriage. Lyle didn't want to adopt, so she swallowed that dream and poured herself into caring for him. People said they almost moved as one person, they were so close. 

When Lyle died in their 64th year of marriage, Naomi thought it best that she should die, too. She even asked God to take her home. She was disappointed each morning when she awoke, still breathing. She finally gave herself a good talking to and decided since she was still breathing each morning, she must still have purpose.

She remembered how she had longed for children, and although she had many nieces and nephews and their families to dote on and love, she wanted to do more. She went to a large children's hospital that cares for babies born too early and those battling serious diseases. She read how these babies needed human touch to help them thrive, and sometimes their exhausted parents needed breaks. So Naomi became a rocker. 

She reports every morning to a special room where she disinfects herself, dons a sterile gown, and receives babies to cuddle and rock. 

While she rocks them, she sings them the songs she stored in her heart but never got to sing to her own children. She whispers in these babies' ears and tells them they will be great men and women some day, how much they are loved, and how very special they are. When the nurses come to pick them up from Naomi, the babies are calm and peaceful, their vitals are strong.

And Naomi, who once asked God to end her life, now prays for more days so she can continue to love these little ones.

66 comments:

  1. I think your eyes and mine see the same beauty in the world. Love them. sandie

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  2. I remember the Naomi story from last year, Shelly. At the time I think I expressed to you the belief that Naomi's commitment to those babies will have a ripple effect and turn what could have been wasted lives into a crop of future leaders and other outstanding citizens.

    The other two stories are equally inspiring. As it happens, a boy like Eric bags groceries at my local supermarket. Invariably the cognitively impaired citizens employed in the retail industry are the ones who are the hardest working and the most friendly and polite to customers. Bored clerks who go through the motions, never make eye contact and never even try to show some warmth toward customers could learn a valuable lesson from Eric and others like him.

    Josh's story reminds us that we can't use our personal history as an excuse for the way we choose to live today. Many people came from broken homes, were disadvantaged, had troubled childhoods and were victims of abuse and neglect. Those empowered to break the chains, rise above adversity and model excellence for the next generation are indeed the unsung heroes of our society.

    Thank you for another uplifting post, dear friend Shelly, and have a safe and happy weekend!

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    1. Shady: Thank you, my friend, for your astute observations here. Truly, we all have it in us, we just have to find the way to get it out, as these three did.

      I know each one of them is going to leave such a deep legacy, albeit in different ways. They make me want to dig a little deeper in myself to bring it out like they have.

      Have a terrific weekend!

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  3. What great stories! If I were eloquent enough I would add a fourth story about Shelly, an unassuming middle school teacher who spends her life looking for the good around her and lifting others in the process.

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    1. Nancy: You are plenty eloquent, my friend, but I am nowhere near the same league as these folks. I do work, though, to be more like them. Thank you!

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  4. Beautiful stories, Shelly, showing such positive aspects of the human spirit. Each story is a treasure! Thank you for a lovely start to the day!

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    1. Dr. Kathy: We all can make such a difference, with just a little change in perspective. I love to run into people like this!

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    2. These are truly heroic people. Many ordinary people are. I wrote a thing a bit over a year ago entitled "Ordinary Heroes." Same concept, less detail, and done without the flair of your storytelling. Thank you for introducing these heroes to us.

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    3. vanilla: It's great to spotlight the everyday good people do all the time, even in the midst of all the bad which seems to draw the media's focus. There are far more heroes in this world than there are villains!

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  5. These stories could be in Chicken Soup! All three a beautiful! Thanks for sharing them!

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  6. Excellent. Thanks for sharing these stories. :)

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    1. ibdiamond: Thank you for stopping by!

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  7. Truly heartwarming stories of those three wonderful individuals and, yes, it is people like that who are real heroes, spreading love as they live their everyday lives. Thank you for sharing them with us today.

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    1. thisisme: Glad you are back and hope you are feeling better, my friend! I do wish the news media focused more on the good that people do, day in and day out. I think it would promote even good deeds by others~

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  8. Darn you; you're making me cry again. Don't you know I'm a big softie?

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    1. Stephen: Our world needs more softies!

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  9. Three great people thank you for introducing us to them...............the world is full of amazing people and we need them

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    1. Jo-Anne: So true, my friend, so true!

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  10. These stories all brought tears to my eyes, Shelly. Thanks for sharing them with us. There is good still out there in the world; we need to read more about that and strive ourselves to do good too! I was particularly touched with Naomi loving on the babies. What a blessing she must be!

    One of our local stores has a young man with Down syndrome who bags groceries and helps around the store. He is so pleasant and hard working; really more so than some of the other employees. I always like to try to get into the line where he is bagging.

    What a wonderful thing too that Josh didn't have a father to model how he parented, but knew he wanted to parent differently and went out of his way to look to see how he could do it.

    again thanks for sharing these :)

    betty

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    1. Betty: I love how regular folks can be so inspiring just by doing what is in their hearts. It really does make me want to be better.

      I am so glad there are places like your grocery store and mine where these folks can work. They are so often the best workers with the best attitudes, and it does me good to see them there~

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  11. Dearest Shelly,
    Oh, I truly think they are the "Everyday Heroes" ☆☆☆
    The story of Naomi(one of the Japanese name) really made me think. As I always think about the possibility of being left alone; I DO wonder if I can be brave enough like her. I sure will try and her story will keep in my mind!!! Haha, the thought leaving first might be a winner would be wrong.
    Thank you very much for introducing us these wonderful people, my friend.

    Sending you lots of love and hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

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    1. orchid: I did not know Naomi was a Japanese name, my dear friend Miyako! And yes, I agree, that how she perseveres through tragedy in her life is true bravery.

      I hope your weekend is wonderful and full of lovely things!

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  12. Oh, Shelly, these are so heartwarming! I love to read about people who brighten the world, as these three do. They do provide inspiration, don't they? We have a very nice fellow at our grocery store as well; he is unfailingly cheerful and polite and helpful. It cheers me up just to see him and say hello.

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    1. jenny_o: I think folks like there are the best inspirations because they are all so humble. Like your fellow at the grocery store, they brighten people's days just by being who they are.

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  13. My mother comes to mind, Shelly. My dad "took up" with another woman and left my mom to raise three small children. It was not easy at times but we made it!

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    1. Cindy: Your mom is truly a hero! I love people with heart and spirit like hers~

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  14. Oh, I love when you do stories like this. (well, OK, I like all your stories) I like that you look deeper at people, that you see this. You see what many others would just not even notice. Or maybe think something and go on and not really take note.

    I think it says a lot about the hero in you. Looking for Christ in everyone.

    Thank you Shelly, for reminding us to look deeper and take more time with people.

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    1. Jamie: I'm very humbled by your words, but I think we all have a little hero in us- we just need to find ways to release it and let it loose. I see a lot of that in you, my friend!

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  15. Service comes in many ways and just like that, it can be as simple as a smile!

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  16. You have such a good heart of compassion Shelley. All the stories are beautiful and special in their own way. My heart went to Naomi for her sacrifice never to have a child of her own...but to rock babies. She truly gives much and at an older stage of her life. Hugs to you.

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    1. Crystal Mary: I just love folks like these who really provoke goodness just by the way they live their lives. Naomi really shows how to make something good out of tragedy. xo-

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  17. beautiful stories..we can all learn from.
    last night we went to a gala to raise $ for the homeless..the stories of these people..oh my gosh! everyday heroes are all around us when we stop our busy lives to notice the beauty of the human soul.
    your post is inspiring.

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    1. Annemarie: I wish we all took time like these folks do to value the beauty and worth of the human soul. There is so much in each of us that is magnificent and so often it is never allowed to shine.

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  18. Dear Shelly, Eric, Josh, and Naomi are indeed everyday heroes who get out of bed each day and meet what greets them with an open heart. They bring joy to others, just as your story about them has brought joyous tears to my ears. We are surrounded by such people if only we all had the eyes to see this. Sometimes, we are blinded by our own lack of imagination and our prejudices. Then it is that we need storytellers like you to help us see the deep down goodness in everyone we meet. Everyone has a story; we just need to listen to it. Peace.

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    1. Dee: So very true. Everyone has a story, and I believe that we can be so much more productive, so much more loving, if we can just take the time to hear what the stories are of others. I am always inspired by quiet, unassuming people like these folks. There is much good out there waiting to be revealed!

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    2. Dear Shelly, with those tears in my ears (a rhyme you note!!!!) I don't know how I'll hear!!!! So let's try for tears in the eyes. Peace and have a lovely Thanksgiving. Dee

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    3. Love your poetry, my friend! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving yourself!

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  19. Okay-okay! *wiping my eyes and blowing my nose* These were wonderful. People like this is where true love flourishes and spreads on this earth. :)

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    1. Rita: And I just have to believe in my heart of hearts there are more of these good folks than there are not. You are so right- that IS where true love flourishes~

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  20. I know I'm late in visiting these last few months, but I am so glad I waited for Monday morning to read this. I woke up tired and grumpy, but these stories melted my heart and set me back on the right track.
    The beautiful story of the woman rocking those little babies will stay with me forever. And the story of how painful it was for Josh not to have his dad really hit home. I have continually shoved down the painful parts of being a mom to a now adult daughter who lives hundreds of miles away. If only I would remember to accept her absence with grace and do something positive with my pain, I think I could heal that wound.

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    1. Jenny: I've been there, too, shoving down those painful parts, and what an unsavory, unhealthy meal that makes. I know you both love each other so much, and that will be what binds you to each other forever. You already do so much that is positive, and I hope channeling that pain into all those wonderful things you create and the beauty you add to the world will help obliterate the hurt.

      I, too, love to read about people like these folks because it not only cleanses me, but it makes me want to do better, to be more like them. You know, I considered too late, after I'd already put this post up, that Elliot would be a fine one for one of these posts. Would you consider letting me include one on him in a few months when I do this again?

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    2. AWWW, thanks Shelly! For all the encouraging, comforting words that you continually give! And of course you can share Elliot, he would absolutely love that.

      I recently repainted and redecorated Emily's room, which is something I find myself doing in preparation for her visit if she's been gone a long time. It always for me symbolizes a fresh start. While I was painting this weekend, the idea for a book or at least a poem arose. "The colors of my daughter's room" is a working title. I can write about the way the absence feels, but how I fill it with color. It's like I get into the nesting mode in between visits. One day it will just be a spare room. I thought this time I would be brave enough to start completely over and really make it the spare room, but I discovered that the bright pink curtains had to stay. Here's me, still not willing to let go.

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    3. Jenny: Thank you so much for checking back here! Elliot will be the first one the next time I do this!

      "The colors of my daughter's room" is going to be something powerful because it resonates in so many different ways...referring to the physical room, the room in the heart...so many different aspects of it.

      And I think there's nothing wrong with not being willing to let go. Leave those pink curtains up without guilt! Nothing wrong with that at all. We are moms, after all!

      And thank you, Jenny, for always being such a deep thinker and sharing so freely here. It really helps me to dig deeper within myself, too.

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  21. The world needs more acts of kindness like these.

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    1. Lydia: I'm convinced they can change the world, really and truly.

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  22. Yes and yes!! Being a teacher, I especially like the story of Josh. It's really incredible what joy people can bring into the world just by doing small but powerful things.

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    1. Betty: You are so right. It is the seemingly insignificant that can have such a lasting impact

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  23. Wow, what beautiful stories. I think Eric's is my favorite, maybe because I work with kids with special needs. Thank you for this lovely post.

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    1. Theresa: I just saw Eric again this morning, and he's doing the same thing with his great big smile. Love people like that!

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  24. What beautiful, heartwarming stories! Thanks Shelley for introducing us to them and for sharing!

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  25. I am sooo thankful that you are my blogger friend. I hope that you had a Happy Thanks giving and you are finding great buys today.

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    1. Munir: I feel the same about you, my friend! And thank you, I've already been to the store this morning, and hope to stay home the rest of the day. Too much shopping is not a good thing for me~

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  26. Shelly
    You chose your three heroes wisely. :)

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  27. those are some great stories... true inspirations :)

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  28. ah yes, i am quite familiar with Zip. If you know of her, who must know of her movie, FREAKS. Very disturbing. Its considered a cult classic. They have stated that Pepper was in fact modeled after Zip.

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    1. I still have the book I got in 7th grade that details the lives of all those folks, and I've seen that movie several times. It was a totally different world then...

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  29. Hi Shelley. I have to agree with everyone else about these stories. I stopped over to answer your question about our daughter and found myself reading. I hope you don't mind but I am going to add a link to your blog on mine. I am a Christian and love inspirational blogs.

    Our daughter is a lecturer at A&M. She is in the English Department. Her name is DR. Pamela Wright and she teaches 19th and 20th century English. It's a small world down there and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if you 2 know each other.

    Thanks for stopping over and asking. I am so glad to have found your blog!

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    1. Jackie: Thank you for stopping by and your kind words! I'm delighted to know about your daughter being at my favorite university and I shall be on the lookout for her. I'm headed over again to your blog for a longer look. It really is a small world, isn't it?

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  30. Wow Shelly. Sometimes our lives aren't in perspective until we meet someone whose heart is larger than life. I know when I bump into someone special I never forget them. (You know I had to blink away tears before I could type don't you?)

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    1. Kelly: People like that always make me want to be better myself. It's such a great reminder to me to think about them. And hey- shake out the glove!

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